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How and when to transition from 3 naps to 2 naps

Anywhere from 6-8 months of age your little one will likely be ready to drop down from 3 naps to 2 naps a day. Many parents are worried about this big jump from 2.5 hours of awake time to now almost 4 hours of awake time at the end of the day! This can feel like a HUGE step as we significantly increase awake times. I’ve got you covered here to make this transition as smooth as possible!

Why do we need to drop a nap?

As your little one grows older, their sleep needs change and daytime sleep has a big impact on nighttime sleep. If we allow too much day sleep or longer later naps to continue this can derail night sleep and we definitely don’t want that!

Is my baby ready to make this transition? We don’t want to jump the gun here and make this transition before your baby is ready. If we do it too soon, they will struggle to handle the extended awake time and will become overtired. When our babies are overtired, sleep becomes more challenging for them due to cortisol production - they struggle to settle and stay asleep. We need to avoid this and ensure they are ready for this step.

What are the signs to look for?

We want to see strong signs that occur for several days before dropping the nap.

  • They are between 6-8 months of age

  • They are taking a long time to settle for their late afternoon nap and really fight this nap

  • They flat out refuse their 3rd nap and the refusal lasts longer than 15-20 minutes

  • The 3rd nap starts to impact their bedtime settle and they don’t seem tired enough at bedtime

  • The nap starts to creep later and later

  • The lunch nap isn’t consolidating

  • They were previously sleeping well overnight and have sudden wakes overnight

  • Waking earlier in the morning and unable to resettle back to sleep

Word of warning! You may see some of these signs at 4 or 5 months but this doesn’t mean its time to drop a nap yet. They still need a shorter power nap in the afternoon until at least 6 months of age.

How to make this transition easier on your little one

  • Try to avoid doing this if they are really overtired or have been sick recently.

  • Try to have the bulk of their sleep happening in the middle of the day. This transition is much smoother on little ones who have a solid longer lunch nap in place. It can be a harder transition if their day is top heavy and they have a longer morning nap and shorter afternoon nap. A longer lunch nap (ideally from 12:30-2:30pm) means they are going into the afternoon and early evening well rested.

  • Increase their awake time between their morning and lunch nap to closer to 3 hours of awake time.

  • Bring bedtime earlier to help them adjust short term - don’t be afraid of a 6pm bedtime if needed!

  • Have plenty of grace and patience! Take things day by day as dropping this nap depends on how well other naps have gone.

How do we drop the 3rd nap?

  • We recommend treading slowly. If this last nap has been one sleep cycle of 45 minutes, then reduce this back to 30 mins. If they have been consistently napping for 30 minutes at this time then cut it back to 15 minutes before dropping all together.

  • Remember to bring bedtime forward if needed.

There is a lot going on around this age! Solids begin to impact sleep, more movement is happening, and it is likely more teeth are popping through! As with any nap transition or regression there is a period of adjustment. Expect some crankiness and overtiredness but they will soon adjust.

IMPORTANT TIP! If your baby is over 8 months and you haven’t been able to get a consolidated longer nap from them at lunch time, then this 3rd nap may be hindering this progress.

Here’s a case study explaining this: Noah is 9 months and has a 30 minute morning nap from 9:30-10am and then his lunch time nap is 1pm-1:45pm. He never gives mum more than one sleep cycle of 45 minutes at lunch time! He is so tired late afternoon that mum feels like he still needs the 3rd nap which can sometimes be up to an hour in length around 4pm. This is one scenario where we advise you to drop the 3rd nap as it’s likely the cause for the lunch nap not being able to lengthen. Noah’s little body thinks he can afford to continue having a short lunch time nap because he makes up for some sleep later in the day with the 3rd nap. In this situation, we would use a consistent settling method to work on the resettle happening during his lunch nap. We need to remove the 3rd nap and bring bedtime earlier to avoid overtiredness.

If you are unsure of ideal routines for your little one, our ultimate guide of routines is available to purchase here.

If you want more guidance around this nap transition and have any concerns or questions, then please get in contact with me as I’d love to coach you through this.

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